Letter to the Editor: FCPS Zero-Tolerance Policy Needs Reform
Resident expresses disappointment in FCPS School Board for delaying the vote on discipline policies.
(Editor's Note: Walter Stankewick is a Mount Vernon resident.)
In 2004, shortly after getting married, my wife and I moved to Fairfax County in large part due to the excellent reputation of the school system. Just like many parents in the county we made this move believing it in the best interests of our children. After learning about the delayed vote on discipline in the school system, I am no longer sure that our decision was the right one.
In the past few years it has become evident that the draconian “zero tolerance” discipline practiced in the county school system was overly punitive, and does much more harm than good. Examples are replete, the most egregious of which is that of student Nick Stuban, who committed suicide as a result of the school system’s practices.
I am greatly disappointed in the School Board for delaying the vote. It raised the question of whether or not the board represents the community at large or the narrow interests of several Fairfax County principals who want to run their schools without accountability to the parents and guardians who entrust our children to their care and guidance for several hours each day.
Requiring parental notification before students are questioned about serious offenses should not be viewed as overly burdensome on the school system. For many years I have heard anecdotally from teachers that parents are not involved enough. Now, when parents are stepping up, wanting to be notified and involved, the schools won’t allow it.
I believe strongly that part of the educational experience is learning that there are consequences to one’s actions. However, I also, and just as strongly believe, that students need to learn the lessons of proportionality; that the punishment needs to fit the offense. The lessons of forgiveness, compassion, mercy and redemption are also necessary.
Walter Stankewick, Mount Vernon